The Farmer’s Market


Having a rare Saturday off work today, I decided to go over to our local Farmer’s Market.  I wanted some vegetables for dinner and some local honey for allergy prevention.

What a great place!  There were rows of vegetables and fruits, flowers and plants, nut butters, honey, and so much more.  I had a strict budget which I kept, with much difficulty, until I came upon a plant stall.  At this point, I lost my heart to a gorgeous coneflower.  The farmer and I had a great chat about my growing adventures this year (which I must share with you all one of these days), and he gave me some good advice for encouraging the white coneflower plant I already have, which has struggled this summer.

Then I saw some cockscomb.  I had fallen in love with this flower while at Monticello last week and was thrilled to buy some for my dining room table.  After I bought it, the farmer showed me where the seeds were located (100’s of them) and told me to save them and plant them in my garden next summer.  How fun is that?

It was a lovely, cool morning, and I came home laden with vegetables, fruit, and flowers.  What a great way to spend a Saturday morning!

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Experiments with sourdough

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I plan to teach a class on baking bread from a starter at my library this Fall.  While I have often done this in the past, I always “cheated” and used yeast in my original starter to get it going. I’ve used the traditional liquidy kind of starter and the old dough method, but this time I decided to try to create my own starter with flour, water, and time.

I did a bit of research (my favorite thing to do) and found this recipe on the King Arthur Flour site. I also read a blog post with more details here.  I bought some whole grain rye flour and a gallon of distilled water and set to work.

The first batch was a complete failure.  After four days, I forgot to feed it and came down to find it moldy and stinky.  So, I threw it away.

My second try, on the other hand, was a success.  I didn’t forget to feed it and after five days, I had lovely big air bubbles in it. By day six, it was overflowing my crock after only four hours so today I made my first batch of bread (view the photo above).

I admit that this was a “cheat” in that I used this recipe which included a small amount of additional yeast.  However, as you can see, the loaves came out beautifully. They have a nice even crumb with a great brown crust.

Next week, when I have more time, I plan to try out this recipe which requires no extra yeast.

Has anyone else experimented with starters and successfully baked bread with no extra yeast added?  I’d love to hear from you.

 

Planning for Senior Year

As you may be able to see from the pile of books above, we will be covering many subjects, including 20th century history and literature.  The chemistry book has not yet arrived, and the precalculus book is already being used for the dual enrollment class.

My planning is made so much easier by the wonderful book selections and schedules at Ambleside Online.  For the past 10+ years I have been hanging out over on that website, reading, learning, and borrowing their lists, schedules, and ideas.  This past summer I had the great privilege of meeting two of the creators of Ambleside Online, Lynn Bruce and Karen Glass, and their conversations were even more helpful and fabulous as I could have imagined after looking through all that the AO Advisory has done over the years.

Another main resource for me has been the ClassEd email group of which I’ve been a part since 2000.  These ladies (and gentlemen from time to time) have shared curricula suggestions, teaching tips, lesson plans, and prayed for my family for many years.  I know that we could never have done all that we did without their wisdom and support.  It really struck home how much they have supported us over the years when the husband of one of the long-time members of ClassEd mentioned how their family had prayed for our family for many years.  What a sweet fellowship we have begun on earth to be continued into eternity.

Along with Honors Chemistry and Precalculus/Calculus at our local community college, we will studying Latin, Bible, Art and Music appreciation, Shakespeare, and 20th century history and literature.  This is my third time through 20th century history in our homeschool, and while there are some bleak books written the past century, there are also some great books, which I look forward to discussing with my youngest son.  Some of the titles we will be reading: A History of the Twentieth Century, Testament of Youth , The Men Behind Hitler, The Hiding Place, Call to Conscience, The Hungarian Revolt, Economics in One Lesson, The Great Gatsby, All Quiet on the Western Front, The Chosen, Fahrenheit 451, Brave New World, Sophie’s World, and Heart of Darkness.

We will also be continuing our reading through some of the Great Books together.  We have finished The Iliad and The Odyssey, The Aeneid, The Divine Comedy and Paradise Lost.  Last year we started Les Miserables and will finish it this fall after which we will read Crime and Punishment.  This will be my first time reading Dostoevsky and I’m a bit intimidated but still looking forward to it.

Also, after attending an excellent workshop on T.S. Eliot’s Four Quartets this past summer, I’m adding T.S. Eliot to our poetry studies.  I’ve been given several titles to read in preparation of teaching Eliot’s poetry so that I at least have a glimmer as to what he is saying in his poems.  We will also read the poetry of the World War I poets and Edna St. Vincent Millay.

As I mentioned in my last post, I want to finish strong with my youngest son.  If we read and study these books, I believe that we will run our last lap of our homeschool journey well.

I’d love to hear about anyone else’s plans for this next year.  Please do share in the comments.

First Sunday of Advent (a day late)

  
The First Sunday in Advent is Hope. The hope of light in darkness, of joy in sorrow, of life in death, of a Savior to take away the sins of the world.  

The Collect.

ALMIGHTY God, give us grace that we may cast away the works of darkness, and put upon us the armour of light, now in the time of this mortal life, in which thy Son Jesus Christ came to visit us in great humility; that in the last day, when he shall come again in his glorious majesty to judge both the quick and dead, we may rise to the life immortal, through him who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Ghost, now and ever. Amen.   – Book of Common Prayer

Blogs that I love – Homemaking

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Last week, I talked about a blog that I just recently started following. Today I want to share a blog that I have been reading for about five years. It’s a blog by a mother and her daughters called Like Mother Like Daughter. I don’t remember how I found it. It was probably from another homemaking blog as I was always looking for more inspiration and wisdom on how to make and keep my home.

The mother, Leila, has a terrific sense of humor and her mantra of “if I can do it, so can you” is very encouraging. I’m pretty sure I started around about the time she talked about the importance of meals and laundry. She then proceeded, over the course of a couple of years, to outline exactly how to plan meals, cook on a budget, get your laundry under control, and keep a reasonably clean house (Don’t you love that idea! Who has time for a perfectly clean house, and how is that possible when you have children under your feet all of the time? I’m telling you, this woman is a gem. She gets the reality of what our lives are really like rather than the Pinterest perfection lives which we all aspire to and feel guilty about when we fail miserably to achieve them).  She also talks about raising children, marriage, families, and books.  Every once in a while she will post an “Ask Auntie Leila” post, answering a reader question.  I think most of her regular readers think of her as Auntie Leila. I know that I do.

Over the years I have learned much from Leila’s wisdom, enjoyed “watching” her daughters get married and have children, and laughed over her wintertime woes, the crazy DIY projects, and her wry sense of humor, and generally have enjoyed  myself every time a post lands in my inbox.

Leila is Catholic, and her faith is evident in most of what she writes. Although I attend a different church, I can still appreciate so much of what she includes about her beliefs and how they impact her every day life. In fact, she often inspires me to think about how my own faith can and should influence my days, even though they are often different than hers.

You can literally spend days reading her blog and all of the back posts, but here are some of my favorites, the ones I go back to again and again for inspiration, wisdom, and comfort:

Beginnings: http://www.likemotherlikedaughter.org/2009/01/can-your-new-years-resolutions-take/

Homemaking: http://www.likemotherlikedaughter.org/2014/07/housewifely/

Dinner: http://www.likemotherlikedaughter.org/2009/01/make-dinner-every-day-and-like-it/

A reasonably clean house: http://www.likemotherlikedaughter.org/2010/01/reasonably-clean-fairly-neat-and/

Order and Wonder: http://www.likemotherlikedaughter.org/2009/03/order-and-wonder-or-most-frequently/

Affirmation: http://www.likemotherlikedaughter.org/2013/11/affirmation-in-thick-of-things/

Bad Days: http://www.likemotherlikedaughter.org/2012/10/10-survival-tactics-for-rescuing-bad-day/

Sundays: http://www.likemotherlikedaughter.org/2009/03/let-me-tell-you-one-thing-about-order/

The Library Project: http://www.likemotherlikedaughter.org/2013/06/the-like-mother-like-daughter-library/

I could go on and on and on, but I instead I will let you go dive in for yourselves.  When you lift your head in a couple of weeks, hopefully you will thank me for sending you over there.

Book Review – The Splendour Falls

Chinon, France – with Château de Chinon on the hill

 

Emily Braden has been convinced to go on vacation with Harry, her charming but unreliable cousin.  Harry is going to the town of Chinon in France to look for the lost treasure of Isabelle, one of the Plantagenet queens, and he arranges to meet Emily in Chinon.  Unsurprisingly to Emily, Harry fails to show up on the agreed upon date.   So begins another of Suzanna Kearsley’s wonderful romantic historical mysteries.  

At first Emily thinks nothing of Harry’s absence, but as the days go by without hearing anything from him, Emily grows concerned that perhaps Harry’s failure to appear is more than just his usual forgetfulness.  As she gets to know the other guests in the hotel in which she is staying, she becomes entangled in not only the mystery of Queen Isabelle’s lost treasure, but also the more recent mystery of another Isabelle, who supposedly hid a treasure before taking her own life in World War II.

The cast of characters include a charming Frenchman and his delightful child, two Canadian brothers, an American couple, and an old retainer with secrets of his own, all of whom draw Emily further into the mysteries of Chinon.  Ms. Kearsley’s delightful descriptions of Chinon gave me the sense of being there, and I admit to spending an evening looking at photographs of the French town and reading more about this historical little gem of a city in the Loire Valley in France.  

I was alternatively entranced and dismayed by the unfolding events and kept reading “just one more chapter” until the wee hours of the morning.  The ending was eminently satisfying–the mystery of both of the Isabelles is resolved as is Harry’s disappearance.  My only disappointment is that I would have liked a bit more detail about the two Isabelles and their times.  However, all in all, it was a satisfying read for anyone who likes historical thrillers set in an exotic locale with a bit of romance thrown in, too.

 

A new Mary Stewart?

 

Reading Clipart Image: Girl or Young Woman Reading a Book While Laying on the Floor

Girl Reading

When I was a girl, I loved reading gothic-type romances by authors such as Victoria Holt, Phyllis Whitney, and Madeleine Brent.  Historical novels were also favorites so when I first read a book by Mary Stewart, I was overjoyed that there was history as well as romance and suspense.  I read all of her books, which our small town library contained, and then reluctantly moved on to other authors.

Last year I happened upon a wonderful website:  https://openlibrary.org/ On that site are digital copies of many older books that were published too recently to be in the public domain but are old enough that they aren’t in the library anymore.  Much to my delight, they had most of Mary Stewart’s books.  Over the next several weeks I was able to borrow and reread my old favorites:  Nine Coaches Waiting, My Brother Michael, This Rough Magic, and others.

As I read, I kept thinking of how much fun the suspense and romance are and how many historical facts, geographical descriptions, and literary allusions there are in her books.  I don’t often come across an author who not only writes well but also includes all of these details which give the novel depth as well as educates the reader in history and geography.  Plus, they are just plain fun to read.

One such writer today is Susanna Kearsley.  I read a couple of her books last year and enjoyed them, but when I picked up The Splendour Falls last fall and started reading, I realized almost immediately that here was a writer who could just about fill Mary Stewart’s writing shoes.  History, romance, adventure, suspense–it had it all.  I could hardly put it down and, for the first time in years, read past midnight to find out what would happen next.  I went on to read Season of Storms and was reminded of the gothic thrillers I enjoyed so much.  Her book, The Winter Sea, took me back to Scotland in the 1700’s during the Jacobite uprisings while Every Secret Thing was a thriller set in modern day Canada as well as Lisbon, Portugal in the 1940’s.

In each of her books there are elements of suspense and romance, but the amount of historical research that has obviously been done gives her books a depth which is often lacking in other romantic thrillers.  Like Mary Stewart, she includes a plucky heroine, an exotic locale, and a mystery to be solved.  There are usually charming and/or quirky secondary characters and a man with whom the heroine will develop a friendship, even if he doesn’t seem her type at first glance.  While Ms. Stewart sometimes included a smattering of history and atmosphere in her novels, Ms. Kearsley takes it further and often gives a more in depth historical background to either her place and/or her heroine’s story.

I am so glad to have discovered Suzanna Kearsley’s books and I look forward to many more happy years of reading to come.